An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 25 December 2001

The New York Times on 21 Dec carried a very sensitive and accurate article on Pakistan and the role of the ISI in supporting terrorism against India. 

We reproduce this report in the hope that the saner elements in Pakistan including President Musharraf will take heed and follow the path of peace!

"Just to puncture our hypocrisy for a moment: We've been battling terrorism by bolstering backers of terrorism in Pakistan.

Pakistan, our new ally in the war on terrorism, has a long history of supporting indiscriminate attacks in India and especially Kashmir. The latest, headline-grabbing attack was the assault on the Parliament building in New Delhi that now threatens war between two nuclear powers, but many thousands of civilians have been killed over the years by Pakistani-financed terrorist organizations.

All in all, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI., is responsible for many more killings than Osama bin Laden. But however hypocritical it may be to bolster one government that harbours terrorists while overthrowing another, there is no good alternative. The Bush administration is exactly right to be simultaneously supporting Gen. Pervez Musharraf and twisting his arm to fight terrorism, for he may be Pakistan's last hope to rescue his country.

Pakistan today is not only a catastrophe for Pakistanis, but a threat to the entire region. Its economy is quasi-feudal, some 55 percent of adults are illiterate and more than 10 percent of children die by the age of 5. Pakistan now has more drug addicts than college graduates.

In the last 20 years public schooling has been partly replaced by madrasas that preach extremism, the pursuit of nuclear weapons has isolated the government, and foolish policies have crippled the economy. The ISI's installation of the Taliban in Afghanistan has backfired, and now there is a risk of the "Talibanization" of Pakistan, as religious extremists return from their "crusades" in Afghanistan and Pashtuns perhaps revive their quest for an independent "Pashtunistan."

In Pakistan earlier this monththe newspapers described guerrillas in Kashmir as "freedom-fighters" if they lived, "martyrs" if they died. And on The Nation's editorial page appeared this rant: "The Christian world has not accepted us [Muslims] as human beings even. These nations are determined to exterminate the Muslims."

General Musharraf is in charge of this morass, and under strong pressure from President Bush, and less visible nudging from China he has acted decisively to pull his country toward reality. He ousted the head of the ISI, permitted the entry of U.S. troops to oust the Taliban, and sent troops for the first time into tribal areas to capture Taliban escapees. He has moved to sideline the religious fanatics, close the extremist madrasas and deport foreign religious students. Next he must clamp down on the Kashmiri fighters.

Over the last two years General Musharraf has shown himself capable of brutally tough decisions, and there is some reason to think that he can regain control of the ISI (which may have run the latest Indian attack as a rogue operation), cut off state support for Kashmiri terrorists, nurture a growing market economy and prepare for democratic elections. The religious parties get less than 5 percent of the vote in Pakistan, and so democracy can delegitimize extremism as well.

When I first traveled around Pakistan as a student backpacker two decades ago, I sneaked into closed tribal areas and visited a village that was a center for heroin and gun-running. One gunsmith tried to sell me a pen that could not only write but also shoot a .22 bullet out the end. Not even a Palm Pilot can do that, and it was only $7! This incredibly nifty gadget enthralled me as a symbol of Pakistani ingenuity and it's also apt because Pakistan has squandered its considerable potential and excelled far more at things destructive than constructive.

Now Pakistan is at a moment of maximum danger, threatened by the instability caused by returning Taliban fighters on the west and by the risk of war with India on the east. Similarly, it was at a time when India was near economic collapse, in the summer of 1991, that New Delhi moved decisively toward a path of economic reform and toward more sensible domestic and international policies across the board.

Pakistan, after so many wrong turns in its history, has tentatively taken a right one in the last few months. Now it must build on that by clamping down on its own terrorists....."

-- Adapted from New York Times, 21 Dec 01

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